The home of God is with men, and he will live among them.
We all have moments which sparkle in our experience of life. These incredible events, impossible to forget, overwhelm us with sheer joy.
You pop the question and she says, "Yes!" You're named Employee of the Year. Your dad says, "I love you," and you know without doubt he means it. You watch with big-eyed astonishment as your own baby inhales her very first breath. And then you laugh with giddy tears when she lets go with her very first cry. You sit with your children beneath twinkling stars on a cold, clear, dark night, a cold night … but you're warm. Or, after decades together, your husband looks at you with misty eyes because he loves you more now than ever.
The light that glistens from these events illuminates who we become.
And these good things we celebrate. We cherish them. We retell these stories to our children and to our grandchildren. We thank God for these good and perfect gifts which come down from above from the Father of Light. We're better because of them.
God himself … will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
But not every remembered event is good. Some things we cannot remember without somber reflection or even melancholy pangs of guilt. It may be a queasy feeling you get when you receive a letter from the IRS and remember you've "tweaked" last year's numbers. It may be the lie you tell your husband about an affair you almost had. Perhaps, it's the fender you dented when no one was looking. It could be words misspoken to one who could have been a great friend, words for which you were too proud to apologize.
Years later we remember these missteps we've made along the way. And the twinges of guilt we feel for what we’ve done to ourselves and others … well, we know we’ve earned it.
Then death and the grave were themselves hurled into the lake of fire …
Worlds away, beyond these regrets for our own actions, like on the dark side of the moon forever away from any light, there are things which happen to us that we’ve not asked for and we feel pain we have not earned and cannot comprehend. Losses occur which we wouldn’t choose in our most deranged state of mind.
The miscarriage of the baby you'll never know … a car wreck that leaves you a widower … watching a child die and not being able to stop it … being raped by an uncle who calls it a special relationship. These things immediately suck life out of us, filling our hearts with black, hot tar, because they push us close to death.
And after them we live in pain.
Time passes and you begin to touch these wounds on their surfaces. You do it with a glib sort of detachment that allows you to momentarily ignore their impact. You shrug your shoulders and sigh, "That’s Life." Or you say, "You know, it just goes to show that we really have no control." And if it's someone else's experience ... "Man, I'll pray for you."
And with the passage of enough time, one begins to pretend he's unchanged or even stronger.
But inside … that hot tar that burns our heart hardens. Life becomes thick. Sparkles of joy disappear. And even years later we cry when we remember.
And regardless of our faith, our hope or even our love, the darkness still hides who we might have been had we not experienced the loss. And so we work hard to protect those places in our hearts that nothing else can touch. Like Jonah we cry, "I am angry even unto death," for life as we have known it is over. We long for God's caress.
Then I saw a new Heaven, and a new earth … for the first Heaven and the first earth had disappeared. And the sea was no more.
Then I heard a great voice from the throne shouting,
"See! The home of God is with men, and he will live among them. They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death shall be no more … and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone."
Then he showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal as it flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Nothing which has cursed man shall exist any longer; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be within the city. His servants shall worship him; they shall see his face …